Och-Ziff Said to Be Tied to Gabonese Fixer in Bribery Case

  • Samuel Mebiame ordered held without bail by New York judge
  • Hedge fund under federal investigation over deals in Africa

The Gabonese “fixer” arrested Tuesday in the U.S. for paying several million dollars in bribes to win minerals rights worked for a joint venture formed in part by Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, according to people familiar with the case.

Samuel Mebiame is accused by federal prosecutors of routinely paying bribes to win rights in Niger, Guinea and Chad. The son of the former Gabonese prime minister, Mebiame allegedly worked as a consultant for the partnership formed by the hedge fund and an unidentified Turks & Caicos-based company from 2007 to 2015. He sought to identify and win mining opportunities in Africa, according to the complaint in Brooklyn, New York, which didn’t name Och-Ziff.

Och-Ziff has been under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for at least five years over whether it knowingly paid bribes to get an investment from Libya’s sovereign wealth fund and to participate in deals elsewhere in Africa. The company said this month that it had set $414 million aside to settle a probe by U.S. authorities into alleged bribery violations in Africa. 

Och-Ziff established its African Global Capital funds in 2008 with South African partners. Mebiame was a fixer for that fund, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Och-Ziff, among the largest publicly traded hedge-fund firms, has $39 billion under management.

Without Bail

Mebiame, 43, was paid at least $3.5 million for his work, according to the complaint. He is accused of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. anti-bribery law. He appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday and was ordered held without bail, said Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Robert Capers in Brooklyn.

Ben Tymann, an attorney representing Mebiame, and Och-Ziff spokesman Joe Snodgrass declined to comment on the charges.

Mebiame, who prosecutors say worked for a mining company owned by the joint venture, allegedly traveled between the U.S. and Africa to meet with accomplices and government officials. On one trip to New York in 2011, he met with the beneficial owner of the Turks & Caicos entity and an employee of the joint venture, prosecutors said.

Mebiame is alleged to have told an unidentified accomplice that their business would suffer if they didn’t bribe government officials. At another point, he threatened to go to the press to expose the joint venture’s “illegal procedures to secure assets in Africa” after a dispute arose over his ownership interest, according to the complaint.

“I will let the world know what kind of international crooks you are,” Mebiame told his accomplice by e-mail, prosecutors said.

The case is U.S. v. Mebiame, 16-mj-752, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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